The Thorney Island Society came into being as a result of saving Old Westminster public library, in Great Smith Street, from demolition in 1985. So it was with a double reverence that we made our much anticipated visit to a far older library only a few hundred yards away in Westminster Abbey. Our objective was the Muniments Room where ancient documents, particularly about Abbey transactions, are stored. But to get to it you have to go through a library that Time has told to stand still. Matthew Payne, Keeper of the Muniments, had us enthralled as he explained the history all around us dominated by the overpowering hammerbeam oak roof dating back to 1450. Only three books survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1540s - probably because they were about coronations and not associated with the old religion - but the library has since acquired a book of 1477 and has a fragment of the History of Troy printed by William Caxton (c 1422 - 1491) at his press mere yards away from where we were standing.

 A wooden spiral staircase took us up to the Muniments room itself where we enjoyed a spectacular view of the inside of the Abbey - at least when we could take our eyes off the ancient memories around us including a long oak chest dating back to 1159, million believed to be the oldest in the country. Among other treasures shown to us were the beautiful prayer book of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry V11, who died in 1509 and what seemed to be a document of Offa - yes, he of Offa's Dyke - dating back to 693 though it turned out to be a 12th century reproduction.  However, the Abbey does have an authentic document that can be traced back to 959, which is long enough ago for most of us.

 With that we bid our farewells to a remarkable part of the Abbey beyond the reach of most visitors. Our thanks to Matthew Payne for showing us around and to Pippa Parsons for organising the trip.